Almost all festivals in Europe use toxic diesel generators as their power supply. As a sustainable alternative, TU Eindhoven researchers and 9 companies have developed a 21-meter high fold-out tower with solar energy panels and a wind turbine. This week the ‘GEM-tower’ was erected on the TU Eindhoven campus in full for the first time, ahead of the first practical test which is to take place next week during the Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium.

More on the GEM Tower: Powering music festivals with sustainable energy

The pollutant nature of festivals had been a thorn in the side of associate professor of Innovative Structural Design Faas Moonen for years. He began work in 2017 on a sustainable alternative, with the help of a 2.3 million-euro subsidy from Interreg Europe. He has since appointed a postdoc and three PhD Engineering researchers to assist him. Nine companies are currently working on his dream, including the festival organizers of Pukkelpop and Eurosonic Noorderslag (Groningen).

Ready for the first extensive tests

Three PhD Eng. students from TU Eindhoven are working on the project: Floor van Schie (left), Marius Lazauskas (centre) en Patrick Lenaers (right).  © Bart van Overbeeke

The subsequent festival tower is now ready for the first extensive tests. “Eventually, a whole group of towers will be able to travel around the European festivals and provide them all with 100% sustainable energy,” says Moonen. “I’m also hoping that their striking appearance will make festival-goers more aware of sustainability.”

Although entirely sustainable solutions have already existed for some time, combining them was a major challenge for the research team. “We had to constantly find a balance between designing an appealing eye-catcher, being able to guarantee optimal safety and our desire to to generate as much energy as possible. That was quite a puzzle”, Moonen explains.

Sustainability is not just about generating energy: the tower itself is made of sustainable materials and thought has been given to the sustainable transport of this colossus. Although the precise yield of the tower has yet to be established via testing, it should be able to generate electricity for no less than 261 days per year. In addition, the base of the tower consists of a three-meter high battery pack that can store up to 90 kWh of electricity. Consequently, energy security can be guaranteed.

Most of the energy is generated by a vertical wind turbine weighing 700 kilograms and standing at a height of 18 meters. This height was chosen as wind blows hardest above 18 meters. If there’s no wind, the solar cells will ensure stable power generation. As many as 144 small, flexible thin-foil solar cells cover the tower. On top of that, the research team is supplying 72 large, flexible solar cells which festival organizers can put on the roofs of their food stalls, lavatory units or tents and connect to the tower’s battery pack.

40 multicolored solar energy collectors

The eye-catchers are the 40 multicolored solar energy collectors. These so-called LSC (Luminescent Solar Concentrator) panels were developed at TU Eindhoven by Prof. Michael Debije’s research team in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. The panels catch incoming rays of light on their plates and transfer them to the edges. In the frames of the panels are solar cells that convert these concentrated light beams into electricity. Moonen: “Because the LSC panels do not need direct sunlight, they are more widely applicable than solar cells. They harness energy in both the shade and in the sun. They still continue to produce electricity even on a completely cloudy day.”

“A crane is still required in order to unfold the current model, although eventually the end product will unfold automatically at the push of a button. © Bart van Overbeeke

The tower has been designed to be foldable in order to also make transportation more sustainable. It takes less than a day to assemble as a result. The 3500-kilogram steel part of the tower is folded up to be about one meter thick and can be folded out up to a height of 14 meters. The whole mechanism is attached with 300 joints and 542 bolts. A crane is still required in order to unfold the current model however the next design aims to unfold automatically at the push of a button.

Even more power

The coming year will be devoted to testing this tower. This model will be fully operational in 2020 and will travel to the festivals. Yet the research team is certainly not done after just the one tower. “We will then start building a new tower which will generate even more energy and can also be folded out automatically,” says Moonen enthusiastically. “Along with the towers, we also want to keep our eyes open for other forms of sustainable energy generation. My dream is to eventually provide all kinds of large-scale events with sustainable electricity via a network of batteries, towers, solar cells and other sustainable innovations – in summer or winter.”

This project, named GEM-tower (Green Energy Mill), has been honored as an Interreg Europe project, with the Eindhoven University of Technology as its leading partner. Faas Moonen is the TU/e  project leader and is supported by PhD engineering researchers Floor van Schie, Patrick Lenaers and Marius Lazauskas and postdoc Ester Pujadas-Gispert. Besides TU/e, nine other partners are also involved in the project: IBIS-Power, Double2, Pukkelpop, Off Grid Energy Limited, Dour, RPS, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Flexotels and ZAP. Visit the website for more information or to follow the project:

 

 

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